16 July 2011

Act with Beauty and Courage

Let us not forget the ancient myths at the outset of humanity's journey, the myths about dragons that at the last moment transform into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act just once with beauty and courage. Perhaps every terror is, in its deepest essence, something that needs our recognition or help.

Borgeby gärd, Sweden, August 12, 1904
Letters to a Young Poet

in The Luxembourg Garden

Excerpt taken from: A Year With Rilke, a wonderful blog by Lorenzo and Ruth, in their July 11 post on Transforming Dragons. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.

14 July 2011

Final Favorite Photos of Rome

It's had to describe the richness that is Rome given its history, architecture and art but here are some of my favorite snapshots of my last visit offered with the exhortation to add it to your "bucket list" if you haven't already.

First of all, you have to love a city that has such beautiful ticket stubs!

Piazza Navona is a magnificent square, one of Rome's showpieces with three fountains and artists' stalls everywhere. It's a great place to sit and people- watch and soak up the vibrant energy and atmosphere.

Here's one of the sculptures in Piazza Navona that's considered a "lesser" fountain to Bernini's marvelous central fountain, the Fountain of the Four Rivers. This is the Fountain of Neptune.

And finally, the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone with the Brazilian Embassy next to it in the same piazza.

The Trevi Fountain with its marvelous sculpture is considered the most beautiful of Italy's many fountains.

I like the whole shabby chic vibe going on here.

The Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient buildings not just in Italy but in Europe. It's largely unchanged in almost 2000 years and where I found that statue of St. Anne (2 posts ago) that I love so much. It was originally a temple devoted to all the gods and later converted into a Catholic church in AD608.

Just one of the details inside are these gorgeous columns and the various kinds of marble used.

Speaking of columns, I like this sculptural staircase in the Palazzo Barberini which houses the National Gallery of Antique Art.

More columns outside the Palazzo framing it's fountain.

Art can be from the over-the-top unbelievable very ornate school of art like this church ceiling (not even one of the major churches),

to the more whacky down to earth school of art, the gargoyles in hidden places all over the city. This is my favorite and I named her the grandmother gargoyle. Haven't you had days where you felt like this?

Shall we give her a name, too?

12 July 2011

The "Little Tibet" of Italy and Spaghetti Westerns

What do Spaghetti Westerns have to do with Campo Imperatore, sometimes called the "little Tibet" of Italy? That question was answered yesterday on the way to hike in this stunning area with my husband and friends. Campo Imperatore is a large plateau 4921 feet above sea level, 18.6 miles long and 6.2 miles wide and overlooked by  the tallest peak in the Apennine Mountains and located in the Gran Sasso National Park.

Turns out that some of the Spaghetti Westerns, so-called in the US (called Italian Westerns in Italy), were filmed here. I could just imagine it as we drove along. Miles and miles of open, uninterrupted  land with hills and mountains in the distance. I pictured the cowboys on their horses galloping freely and doing all those things that cowboys do. I imagined the delight of the directors in finding this gem of a location which looks like the old wild west of the US. As if to oblige my musings, we even saw some horses grazing along the way.

But, back to the Italian Westerns; they were a sub-genre of Western films dating from the mid-1960's. Sergio Leone was probably the most famous of the Italian directors and among the best known of his films were: "A Fistful of Dollars", "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", and "Once Upon a Time in the West". Ironically, they were originally released in Italian by a man who spoke no English and had never visited the US, but nonetheless redefined the image of the cowboy. They further expanded to include other directors in Italy and Europe and were then called European Westerns. Over 600 European Westerns were made between 1960-1980.

We had our first glimpse of Corno Grande, the highest peak (9500 feet) in the Gran Sasso Range of the Apennine Mountains, as we turned a corner near our hike destination in Campo Imperatore:

The rewards for hiking up to 7800, besides the exhilaration of good physical exertion on an absolutely crystal clear, 74 degree day, were these views:

Corno Picolo:

Corno Grande:

Flags of Italy and the European Union put up on top by the Club Alpino Italiano:

A happy hiker at the top:

What is exhilarating you this summer?

07 July 2011

A Grandmother in Rome

While visiting the Pantheon I came across this statue of St. Anne with her young daughter, Mary, who later gave birth to Jesus. The statue with all the pomp and circumstance of this church (as it is now) and the myriad religious doctrines surrounding Anne and Mary,  portrays an ordinary and affectionate scene. I found it compelling and it struck me not from a religious point of view but from a grandmother's point of view.  Anne became the grandmother of Jesus. I'd never thought of her that way before.

It got me thinking that behind even the holiest or most famous person is a grandmother or two. A grandmother who wants what is best for her grandchild, who cooks for and cuddles that grandchild, plays with, reads to, teaches, laughs with and encourages that grandchild, thinks that her grandchild has rare abilities and gifts and can become a great and important person. Hopes, at least, for her grandchild's full unfolding as a person. We know how her grandson turned out, his pivotal role in history, his enormous influence through the ages. We can only speculate about her role in the early life of Jesus since she isn't mentioned in the gospels and was already older when she had Mary. She was at the very least the model of mothering for Mary.

I spent more time with this obscure statue than any of the better known others since it seemed so personal and spoke to me of my unique and important role in the lives of my grandchildren. Like Anne in the statue, I'm unaware of my grandchildren's future.  They will walk their own paths in response to their own callings. But I love their mother and father, love them and stay involved in their lives telling them stories of their ancestors, cheering them on and believing in their possibilities. Just like St. Anne.

Who's inspiring you these days?

04 July 2011

A Neighborhood in Rome

This week my husband and I swapped homes with friends in Rome. They're at our house with access to the beach and National Parks and we're in the middle of Rome able to walk to sights we want to see. But what I wanted to tell you about is Monti, the neighborhood in Rome where we're staying. Not the tourist spots, although they're all around, but a neighborhood where folks live, work, shop, eat and hang out. This neighborhood, between Via Nationale and Via Cavour, and our street, running between the Colosseum and the Quirinale. It's tucked in among major tourist attractions which we've taken advantage of, but we've been especially exploring and enjoying this neighborhood.

There are small local eateries with  tables inside and outside serving delicious local dishes.

Little stores and markets abound (rather than souvenir shops) to pick up necessities: the Alimentari for fruits, vegetables  and drinks, the specialty market for meats, cheeses, breads and all kinds of typical Italian foods, the Forno for focacia pizza and the best fresh baked breads, many caffés but one with Rome's best coffee and, of course, many gelaterias but one with the best gelato in the neighborhood.

Some of their breads.

Best coffee in Rome at Caffé Brasile.

One of four cases of home made gelato with unusual flavors (like lemon and basil) and each decorated.

The casalinghi with truly a little bit of everything. I found somethings I needed - with so many choices it's hard to miss. Is this place a trip or what?

Our local church, Church of the Madonna dei Monti, built in the 16th century.

Many streets have an outdoor shrine and this is the one on ours. The lights in the halo light up and someone keeps the flowers fresh.

At the very end of the street is the Colosseum which is amazing to look up and see while out strolling around.

The apartment buildings have such lovely colors.

With some quaint touches on some. See the grapes? Right in the middle of Rome!

And hanging vines, a final delight right around the corner.

My camera ran out of battery power before I could get a photo of our local piazza, the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, but it's always filled with people, mostly locals, sitting, chatting, visiting, eating and playing. The energy is evident and contagious. What a great way to vacation.

Happy Fourth of July. Hope your vacation surprises and delights you too.